Why Elevator Pitches Fail (Just Like Most Pick-up Lines)

Person pushing elevator button

Elevator pitches fail way more often than they succeed. And it struck me recently that the reasons they fail are disturbingly similar to why cheesy pick-up lines also go down in flames. So, let’s dissect the problems with pitches and consider a better way to make a first impression that leads to a lasting (professional) relationship:


Slow Down, Buckaroo

The very premise of an elevator pitch – just like a pick-up line – creates a sense of urgency. (You’ve got 10 seconds to impress and intrigue a decision maker. Go!) This is the first reason elevator pitches are almost always doomed to fail. Too much pressure, too little time.

Frankly, no salesperson in such a situation is so finessed they can move the decision maker from introduction to awareness to interest to enthusiasm so quickly. That’s why, with mere seconds to work with, a traditional elevator pitch can seem like an attack. Instead of engaging in a pleasant, insightful conversation, the decision maker feels, well, pitched. The natural response, of course, is to put up defenses and walk away. It’s easier that way. Safer, too, it feels.


The Canned Ham

Because the “pitcher” knows he has a time limit and doesn’t want to appear ill-prepared, the scripted or “canned” presentation spews forth. It’s virtually impossible to make this sound natural, off-the-cuff, and honestly engaging. Think of the worst pick-up lines (“If I said you had a great body, would you hold it against me?” or “Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?” or “Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by you again?”). They don’t sound real. Heck, they don’t even sound human!  It’s usually the same for the canned elevator pitch. It sounds scripted and rehearsed and memorized . . . because it is. Your chances of success with such an approach? Going down fast!


Could You Possibly Be More Vague?

In an effort to engage the prospect, the “pitcher” may opt to go vague: “At my company, we make dreams come true.” Or “We make success a sure thing”. Or “We turn relationships into revenue.” This is all done in the hopes of getting the prospect to ask, “How do you do that?” (The more likely response to such lame teases, of course, is “What the heck are you smoking?”) Frankly, these word games/mind games are exhausting from the outset, and this is a big reason elevator pitches fail. If you hook a prospect using such an approach, you should worry. A lot.


Pitching to the Pedestal

The very act of making a forced elevator pitch upsets the desired natural balance of peer-to-peer equality. By launching into an obvious (and obviously canned) pitch, you send the signal that “I know you have the upper hand, but I need you to need me!” Instantly the balance shifts. At best, you lose status, credibility and leverage. Worse, you could come across as a clingy potential stalker. The object of your pitch naturally recoils and can’t wait to escape your neediness. Don’t give chase. It could get ugly.


Let’s Talk About Me

Because you can’t possibly know enough about your trapped prospect to truly personalize your pitch, the natural tactic is to talk about yourself. About your company. About a solution the prospect can’t relate to and doesn’t need. So you come across as self-centered and all about the sale. The prospect feels devalued because your pitch is focused on what you offer and not about curing real pain points. So, naturally, again, the prospect’s defenses go up and your chances go down, down, down. (Is the elevator in the basement yet?)


A Better Way

Rather than beating the dead horse of an elevator pitch that goes nowhere, relax. Be human. Start a conversation. Make the conversation about the prospect. Ask about them, rather than launching into a stump speech about you. Start a journey of discovery. It might go nowhere, and you might learn little, and you might not “get lucky” and earn a new customer (but you also won’t have to answer those stalker questions down at the police station).

Remember that the real objective of your initial conversation is to earn another conversation. Then, and only then, can you begin to determine if your solution and the prospect’s needs are a good fit. That’s it. That’s all. That’s enough.


The Bottom Line:

Reject the itch to pitch. At Sales Xceleration, we’ve found that sales success seldom has roots in cold calling, meat-market networking, or elevator pitch pick-up lines. Rather, it blooms from research and referrals; and bears fruit in real conversations about real problems that lead to real solutions and collaborative opportunities. Ultimately, elevator pitches fail – just like those pathetic pick-up lines. So, ditch your pitch and take the stairs to the top instead. And to learn more about proven sales methods that work, reach out to a Sales Xceleration Advisor today, or contact us at 844.874.7253.